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The News Gallery

June 2014

View and print a pdf version of this News Gallery.
Editor: Robert Herman
Public Information Officer
(559) 733-6606

Contributors to this issue:
Marlene Moreno, Jennifer Fisher, Lorena White, Shelly DiCenzo, Nancy Bruce and Stephanie Caldera.

The News Gallery is published monthly with the exception of double issues printed for July/August and December/January. To receive the News Gallery, visit www.tcoe.org/GetTheGallery, or contact Jennifer Fisher at jenniferf@tcoe.org or (559) 733-6172.

Project Based Learning in the Great Outdoors

Project Based Learning in the Great Outdoors
Circle J joins Sequoia Environmental Education Directive to offer summer training

Project Based Learning in the Great Outdoors (PBL-GO) is a new teacher training program scheduled for August 3-6 in the Sequoia National Park. The program is designed to immerse teachers in the great outdoors and prepare them to lead their own PBL unit involving outdoor field trips and topics.

Circle J-Norris Ranch, the field study site of the SCICON program, is a partner in the training. According to Circle J Lead Teacher Nancy Bruce, "Teachers will spend three glorious days in Sequoia National Park working with like-minded teachers and resource experts. They will leave with a written PBL plan to engage students in outdoor learning, guided by the driving question created during the workshop."

PBL-GO brings together teachers and resource experts to co-develop field studies that increase environmental literacy and project based learning skills, such as critical thinking, collaboration, communication and creativity. Presenters provide educational support and professional guidance for teachers to lead their students as they take on challenging environmental issues.

"Another important aspect of PBL-GO is that teachers will develop a network of long-term professional relationships with teachers and resource experts who will provide support throughout the school year," adds Nancy Bruce. "This professional network will assist teachers in locating experts who can work with classes and serve as an authentic audience to students presenting their work. In December, PBL-GO teachers will participate in a symposium where they report on progress and challenges with their ongoing project and receive structured support from their peers. Exemplary projects will be invited to an exhibition to allow students to share their progress and the results of the PBL-GO unit with the greater community, perhaps at the second annual A Night at the 21st Century Museum event to be held in spring 2015.

PBL-GO is a project of the Sequoia Environmental Education Directive (SEED). The SEED team includes representatives from Tulare County Office of Education, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, Sequoia Riverlands Trust, Circle J-Norris Ranch and Sequoia Natural History Association. SEED is dedicated to providing outdoor field trips that inspire students, teachers and community members to explore, examine and conserve local ecosystems. "Tulare County is rich with outdoor education opportunities," says County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak. "I am delighted to see the partner organizations working together to provide students with meaningful project based learning experiences."

PBL-GO Registration
$200 per teacher includes programs, camping, meals and materials.
Contact Sarah Schachter at Sequoia Natural History Assoc.
(559) 565-4222 or sarah_schachter@sequoiahistory.org.

Photo above:
~ Students in Porterville High School's Alternative Energy Resource Occupations (AERO) Academy were challenged to design and build a model sun/rain shelter for Circle J-Norris Ranch. Seniors in the Academy visited the ranch three times throughout the school year, engaging in selection of building sites, shelter design and building materials that would have minimal impact on the natural environment. Students worked in teams to complete the project, then presented their concepts, highlighting the special features of their shelters. All shelters were then subjected to wind-tunnel tests to ensure that the designs can withstand inclement weather.

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Over 400 videos submitted from seven counties
Winners chosen in annual Slick Rock Student Film Festival

Slick Rock Student Film Festival Middle school students hesitantly emerged from the limousines that transported them to the Slick Rock Student Film Festival, moving cautiously toward the red carpet walk and the entrance to the Visalia Fox Theatre. In contrast, high school participants "owned" the red carpet - posing for photographers and speaking authoritatively in interviews with the videographer.

"Slick Rock is not only helping students develop as filmmakers, but as confident young adults," says CHOICES Prevention Programs Supervisor Adam Valencia. "Slick Rock gives participants the real world experience they can use in college and career - the experience of working creatively and collaboratively with teammates and with members of the community."

Slick Rock Student Film Festival The Fox Theatre was abuzz with young filmmakers on Saturday, May 17. Hundreds of students, parents and teachers packed the theater for a chance to see which films would claim the top prizes. The festival, which accepted films from middle and high schools in seven central Valley counties (Fresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Merced and Tulare), received over 400 video entries this year - double the amount submitted in 2013. Middle school students could enter films in seven categories, while high school students had a choice of 14 categories. To see the winning videos in each of the categories, visit

Slick Rock is generously supported by the Tulare & Kings Counties Suicide Prevention Task Force, the Tulare County Film Commission, Tulare County Step Up Initiative, and ABC30.

Photos above:
~ Mitchell Quiring of Bullard High School in Fresno was the winner of the "Best of Show" Award for his film "It Affects Us All". Watch it at www.slickrockfestival.org.
~ El Diamante High School's Courtney Berk (left) and Randi Sumpter receive a check from Tulare County Supervisor Allen Ishida for their film "Take a Walk." The students won the "Come Play" category which is supported by the Tulare County Film Commission. The students who entered this category were charged with creating a film promoting Tulare County tourism. Their film can be viewed at www.slickrockfestival.org.

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21st Century Museum projects wow visitors
Students show off 21st Century Learning skills in first annual project showcase

A Night at the 21st Century Museum

This year, visitors to Scott Pierce's junior English class at Mission Oak High School in Tulare might have seen students deeply engaged in phone conversations outside his classroom. "Students could be heard posing all types of questions," Mr. Pierce reports. "For example, one might overhear them asking the cost to rent a Lear Jet or an elephant, or 'What would Miss Gomez charge to appear at our party?'"

Pierce had taken the class's usual study of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and expanded it to include planning an event worthy of Jay Gatsby himself. "The students were given a budget of $500,000 to organize an incredible party for Mr. Gatsby," said Mr. Pierce. Every detail was to be considered: the venue, the celebrity guest list, the décor, the menu, the entertainment, and, of course, the budget. Working in teams as event planners, the students developed presentations, including sample invitations, the DJ, transportation, tableware selections, theme concepts, the dinner menu, and a spreadsheet of the projected cost - in hopes of capturing the contract for the big event. In addition to helping students understand more deeply the world of Jay Gatsby, Mr. Pierce reports that the project had other benefits. "When a student is able to call and speak to Selena Gomez's agent to ask about her appearance fees, that's a big moment," he said. "This project really helped students develop their soft skills - those abilities that enable them to interact effectively with others."

A Night at the 21st Century Museum

To show off their hard work, teams of enthusiastic Mission Oak students were on hand at the first annual A Night at the 21st Century Museum event - a showcase of nearly 60 student-developed projects. A Night at the 21st Century Museum was held May 14 at the Heritage Complex in Tulare and included dozens of student groups from elementary, middle and high schools across the county sharing examples of Project Based Learning (PBL) - documentaries, live performances, enterprise ventures and other exhibits.

A Night at the 21st Century Museum was created with two big ideas in mind: to offer a format where students and teachers can share their high quality work and to create an event where parents, community members, and other teachers and students can gain an understanding of PBL. Teachers interested in more information on PBL or participating in next year's A Night at the 21st Century Museum should contact Joy Soares of Tulare County Office of Education's Educational Resource Services program at (559) 651-0501.

Photos above:
~ Students from Mission Oak High School were a part of the first annual "A Night at the 21st Century Museum", where they displayed their plans to host an elaborate party for fictional character Jay Gatsby.
~ “A Night at the 21st Century Museum” is a new annual showcase of Project Based Learning. Work samples from students at Mission Oak High School in Tulare are displayed. Given a budget of $500,000, students were challenged to design and organize a party for Jay Gatsby, the main charater in "The Great Gatsby". The students had to address all aspects of the party, including the venue, theme, menu, entertainment, VIP guest list and transportation.

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Shirley Gowett wins Brent Rast Award
Teacher draws on her rich background to build life skills in adult students

Shirley Gowett wins Brent Rast Award

For 15 years, Shirley Gowett has been a teacher in a variety of special education classrooms throughout the county - primarily working with students in grades 1-6. This year, she accepted the teaching position in the newly created Community Based Instruction (CBI) #2 class at College of the Sequoias. As a CBI teacher, she guides students - ages 18-22 - in developing key life skills, such as money management, personal health and fitness, and communication and job skills.

Shirley's approach to instruction is simple: "I believe that if we build communication skills, work on the appropriate behavior, and find activities that are interesting, our students will become great people." Shirley, who has a varied background that included serving as a bank employee, a fire dispatcher and a forest recreational counselor, uses her experiences to teach her students about time management and personal responsibility. Shirley is able to connect personal responsibility through a nutrition education lesson she conducts. "When we have a treat in class, I ask students to equate the calories we consumed with the number of laps around the COS track it takes to burn it off."

For her talents in connecting with each of her students and unlocking their potential, teacher Shirley Gowett received the annual Brent Rast Award from the Special Services Division. Named in memory of Brent Rast, a Tulare County Office of Education teacher of the severely handicapped, the award honors educators who possess his vision and leadership qualities.

The award was presented at the annual Community Advisory Council (CAC) luncheon, co-hosted by the countywide Directors of Special Education (DOSE) and the Superintendents Governance Committee. Program Manager Maxine Epperson surprised Shirley with the award, calling her to the stage before a large audience of administrators, teachers and parents. "Shirley has been an absolutely amazing teacher of our younger students," she said. "We are delighted that she accepted the CBI position at COS and look forward to seeing the wonderful things she does with our older students."

The annual Linda Hess Award, which recognizes an exceptional parent, was also presented at the CAC luncheon. This year's recipient was Rich Standridge, a Porterville parent who has not only been an outstanding advocate and partner with his child's school, but helped other Porterville parents support their children with special needs.

Photo above:
~ Shirley Gowett, winner of the 2014 Brent Rast Award, poses with her students on the College of the Sequoias campus. Ms. Gowett leads the Community Based Instruction #2 class at COS.

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Excellence in Education winners announced
TCOE's Anne Clifford named Teacher of the Year; Porterville's Snavely and Alvarez also win

Excellence in Education Awards

Last month, County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak visited the classroom of Anne Clifford, lead teacher at the Community Based Instruction #1 class in Tulare. Mr. Vidak explained to her students and aides that each year, the 44 school districts in Tulare County, along with the Tulare County Office of Education, the College of the Sequoias and Porterville College, have the opportunity to nominate an outstanding teacher for the Excellence in Education "Teacher of the Year" Award. He continued by saying that all of those teachers are reviewed by a selection committee of business and educational leaders who help to choose the one teacher in Tulare County who will be the Teacher of the Year. Before he could tell them more, the students began to shout, "Ms. Clifford! Ms. Clifford!"

As Mr. Vidak confirmed that yes, Anne Clifford had been selected as the Tulare County Teacher of the Year, her students erupted in cheers, and Anne and her aides began to cry.

This happy scene was repeated at the Porterville Unified district office when Mr. Vidak visited to tell Superintendent Dr. John Snavely that he had been named Administrator of the Year, and to inform Work-Based Coordinator Ruben Alvarez that he had been selected School Employee of the Year.

This year, the selection committee scored a total of 30 nominations in the Administrator/Manager, Teacher and School Employee of the Year categories. "The nominees are truly champions for children," says Mr. Vidak. "Each has a heart for seeing that students grow into independent, successful young adults. These creative individuals have designed and fostered innovative programs to help students meet those goals."

Excellence in Education Awards

The Excellence in Education Award winners, finalists and nominees will be honored at a recognition breakfast on October 28 at the Visalia Convention Center. Below is a description of each winner, followed by a list of finalists in the 2014 Excellence in Education Awards program.

Anne Clifford, Teacher of the Severely Handicapped, Tulare County Office of Education
Anne Clifford has been a teacher of the severely handicapped with the Tulare County Office of Education for 19 years. In 1997, she brought her great love for students and her high-energy teaching style to a newly opened class for adult students known as Community Based Instruction (CBI). Anne's class was the first of its kind in Tulare County, becoming a model for eight other CBI classrooms now operating throughout the county.

Ms. Clifford was praised by her nominators for teaching valuable life skills to her students, who are 18-22 years old. In her classroom, students learn job skills, how to navigate the city transportation system, how to manage money, proper social skills in public places and much more. Working together with parents and family members, she helps students become as independent as possible, even finding employment for them when she can.

Ms. Clifford was an early adopter of CHARACTER COUNTS!, a program which underpins all her daily instruction. Through it, students reflect on their behavior as measured by the Six Pillars of Character - Trustworthiness, Respect, Responsibility, Fairness, Caring and Citizenship. She has been a national leader in infusing the program into special education instruction and has twice presented at National CHARACTER COUNTS! Conferences/Trainings.

John Snavely, Ed.D., Superintendent, Porterville Unified School District
Dr. John Snavely has served as superintendent of the Porterville Unified School District since 2001. In that time, he has overseen the development of some of Porterville Unified's most notable programs, including the construction of two new elementary schools, two new high schools, a new middle school and a new Adult School Complex. In addition, he has championed the development of the district's dual immersion program, a NASA-sponsored middle school academy, an increase in the number of Student Pathway Academies and the development of the National Academy Foundation School of Engineering at Harmony Magnet Academy.

His commitment to furthering the district's career pathways has led to Porterville Unified being selected as the mentor district for the Tulare-Kings Linked Learning Consortium, a statewide school/business partnership initiative. For his work with Linked Learning, he was recently recognized as the inaugural recipient of the state Educator Champion Award.

Dr. Snavely is involved in numerous state, regional and local organizations, including serving on state committees for the Association of California School Administrators (ACSA), the Coalition for Adequate School Housing and the California Association of School Business Officials. Locally, he has been involved with the Porterville Chamber of Commerce, the Porterville Rotary Club and numerous other organizations.

Ruben Alvarez, Work-Based Coordinator, Porterville Unified School District
Mr. Alvarez began his career with Porterville Unified in 2010 as the Work-Based Learning Coordinator within the district's Student Pathways Program. In this position, he manages multiple activities for students in the realm of student internship placement and career and college preparation training. On the business side of the program, he serves as a key liaison for up to 10 professional advisory boards supporting the Student Pathways Program.

Porterville Unified has benefitted from Mr. Alvarez's many years of job placement and training experience, gained in a variety of education and community service organizations. In the short time he has worked for the district, Mr. Alvarez has connected with over 200 business professionals to support the district's work-based learning initiative. He has also served to place over 600 high school students in internship positions. Last year alone, he trained 500 Porterville students in the skills they will need for a successful interview.

In addition to his work with the district, Mr. Alvarez has been an ambassador for the Porterville Chamber of Commerce, served on the Tulare County Youth Council, and founded the Porterville Youth Flag Football League. He has also been a presenter at numerous conferences on work-based learning.


Two finalists are selected in each of the three categories:

Administrator of the Year
Tanya Goosev, Principal, Orosi High School, Cutler-Orosi Joint Unified School District
Larriann Torrez, Assistant Director, Tulare Adult School/Principal, Sierra Vista High School, Tulare Joint Union High School District

Teacher of the Year
Melody Kelley, Fourth-Grade Teacher, Pleasant Elementary School, Tulare City School District
Joni Jordan, Curriculum/Outcomes Coordinator, College of the Sequoias

School Employee of the Year
Jody Arriaga, Accounts Payable Supervisor, Tulare County Office of Education
Bobbie Velasquez, Secretary to the Superintendent, Lindsay Unified School District

Photos above:
~ Community Based Instruction teacher Anne Clifford receives the news from County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak that she has been named the Tulare County Teacher of the Year in the 20th Annual Excellence in Education Awards program.
~ Last month, County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak (r) surprised Dr. John Snavely (l) and Ruben Alvarez (c) at the Porterville Unified district office. Mr. Vidak informed Dr. Snavely that he had won the Administrator of the Year Award and Mr. Alvarez had won the School Employee of the Year Award in the Excellence in Education Awards program.

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Spotlight on People The Tulare County Hispanic Leadership Network recently honored six exemplary Tulare County school administrators at its second annual Administrators of the Year Awards program. Among the honorees was Laura A. Gonzalez (left), English Language Arts staff development and curriculum specialist with TCOE’s Educational Resource Services. Mrs. Gonzalez was praised for her expertise in training district staff in the latest English language acquisition techniques and for representing the Central Valley on several prestigious state curriculum committees. Laura is pictured with event emcee Celia Maldonado-Arroyo, trustee for the Tulare County Board of Education.

Spotlight on People Target Corporation employees from stores in Visalia, Tulare, Porterville and Bakersfield recently volunteered to make books for the Bright Start Early Intervention Program. The books, which will be given to families in the program, were coordinated by Staci Haynes (center), the mother of a Bright Start child. Employees in the seven Target stores gave over 400 volunteer hours to complete 130 books. Ms. Haynes is pictured with (l-r) Bright Start Parent Liaison Stephanie Caldera, Target employee Renata Punkett, Bright Start teacher Michelle Branco and Bright Start Program Manager LouAnn Lubben.

Spotlight on People Three young people were selected as winners in the ninth annual Tulare County Foundations for Life Essay Contest. As part of their award, each winner received a $100 prize from the TCOE Foundation and read their essays before the Tulare County Board of Education. Foundations for Life is a quotation-based program that promotes critical thinking and writing skills while simultaneously reinforcing character education. Pictured with instructional consultant Jane Mitchell are (l-r) Claire Stetson, a freshman at Redwood High School (Visalia); Rafael Chavez, an eighth-grade student at Mulcahy Middle School (Tulare); and Ethan Nguyen, a seventh-grade student at La Joya Middle School (Visalia).

Spotlight on People The CHARACTER COUNTS! Program recently held its second annual recognition day at the Visalia Rawhide. Over 860 students from 14 schools attended, helping the Rawhide set a new day-game attendance record. Will Tiesiera Ford provided complimentary tickets for the students, who enjoyed plenty of fun activities and recognition for their good character on and off the field.

Spotlight on People County Superintendent of Schools Jim Vidak will host the annual Summer Institute for Tulare County School Administrators on June 18 at the Edison Energy Education Center in Tulare. Open to superintendents, district administrators and principals, Summer Institute will feature gold medal Olympian and sports broadcaster John Naber, plus breakout sessions on school finance, instruction and legal topics. The deadline to register is June 13. More information is available at

Spotlight on People For the third year in a row, Valley Life Charter captured the top prize in the middle school category of the annual Step Up Youth Challenge. Valley Life’s project focused on suicide prevention, with the goal of becoming the “Kindest School in Tulare County.” Valley Life students also raised over $16,000 to help two families in need. For their project, the school received a perfect 100 points by grant reviewers. Mission Oak High School in Tulare also received a score of 100 to capture the top prize in the high school category. In all, 14 Tulare County middle school and 7 high school teams competed for grant prizes totaling $30,000. For more information on Step Up, visit stepuptc.co.tulare.ca.us.

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Gallery Notes

On June 11, the Human Resources Division will honor employees who have retired during the 2013-2014 school year. The annual Retirement Reception will be held at 5:00 p.m. in the Education Center, 2637 West Burrel Avenue. This year, 27 teachers, support staff and administrators have retired.

2013-2014 Retirees

Scott Aldrich, Designated Instructional Services
Nancy Campbell, Early Childhood Education
Margaret Chavez, Early Childhood Education
Maxine Epperson, Severely Handicapped Services
Candace Haas, Court/Community Schools
Margaret Hall, Early Childhood Education
Ernestine Hernandez, Early Childhood Education
Robin Hoffman, Speech & Language Services
Kevin Humann, SCICON
Winston Larson, Special Services
Rosita Lemus, Early Childhood Education
Rosalina Lubong, Early Childhood Education
Alice Madrigal, Early Childhood Education
Jill Maurer, Severely Handicapped Services
Cynthia Miller, Severely Handicapped Services
Jane Mitchell, Educational Resource Services
Randy Mitchell, SCICON
Rick Mitchell, SCICON
Wendy Mitchell, Deaf & Hard of Hearing
Dora Moreno, Early Childhood Education
Marlene Overbeck, Early Childhood Education
Sonia Pavao, Educational Resource Services
Linda Reyes, Early Childhood Education
Linda Shiba, External Business Services
Dennis Sirkin, La Sierra Military Academy
Anita Torres, Severely Handicapped Services-Bright Start
Angel Vazquez, Court/Community Schools
Barbara Warren, Mild to Moderate Program
Christine White, Severely Handicapped Services-Bright Start

Last month, the CHARACTER COUNTS! Program presented its second annual Pursuing Victory With Honor Scholarships to four high school student athletes. The $500 college scholarships were awarded to seniors for their exemplary character on and off the field. The recipients, who possess exceptional traits in sportsmanship, leadership and initiative, are: Christina Castro, Lindsay High School; Jenna Miller, Redwood High School; Melissa Samaniego, Woodlake High School; and Sydnie Sousa, Tulare Western High School.

The New Teacher & Leadership Development program will hold information meetings for administrators interested in acquiring their Tier 2 Administrative Clear Credential June 19 and 30 and July 15 and 31. New Teacher & Leadership Development was recently authorized by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing as an Administrative Clear Credential Induction Program. Administrators in Tulare and Kings counties who hold a preliminary administrative credential may join the newly created iLead Program to obtain their clear credential. To register to attend the Tier 2 Administrative Credential meetings, call Donna Glassman-Sommer at (559) 730-2549.

Last month, the Battle of the Books competition included a middle school and an upper elementary school category. Teams prepared for the event by reading from a list of books distributed last summer. At the competition, teams participated in a variety of quizzes on the books they read to earn points toward the championship. The winning middle school team was Radical Readers from Sundale Union School (Tulare). Team members included Jenna Ney, Bradley Gilmore, Hayley Fernandes and Alyssa Fraley and were coached by Shannon Fritzler. The winning elementary team was the Linwood Page Turners from Linwood Elementary (Visalia). Team members included Dakota Brown, Jasper Hardwick, Carol Huang, Giselle Ream and Curtis Williams. They were coached by LaDonna Jones.

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Tim A. Hire, County Superintendent of Schools
Tulare County Office of Education
All mail to: P.O. Box 5091, Visalia, CA 93278-5091
Physical address: 6200 S. Mooney Blvd., Visalia, CA 93277
phone: (559) 733-6300 • fax: (559) 627-5219

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